Reflections: The real reason you still shop at Ikea

‘Home’ feels too uncertain a notion to invest in these days – decoratively and emotionally – and sometimes decor becomes an afterthought.

All of these things and more have led us, Amandolare supposes, to a state where decor is an afterthought – and when it is executed, it is done in such a way that it holds little meaning in terms of who we are.

Amandolare also points to the work of Alison J Clarke, professor of design history at University Applied Arts Vienna and a trained social anthropologist with a specialty in material culture, who sees the success of Ikea as being emblematic of this shift:

“The reason Ikea is so successful is that it’s the exact opposite of self-expression,” says Clarke. “It’s self-expression within a limited repertoire.”

My knee-jerk reaction to this bold statement is this: isn’t almost all (material) self-expression done within a limited repertoire? Unless you have the time and skill to build anything you want, or the money to buy it or have it built for you, we’re all expressing ourselves in a materially limited way within our physical spaces.

I also agree with the commenter Atlant, who says:

We buy [from Ikea] because their products are inexpensive, functional, and quite often, easily modifiable to make a piece that is absolutely UNIQUE to us.

Indeed, this has been something of a focus of mine in recent weeks: I have been fantasising about knocking down the wall between the kitchen and living room in our apartment in order to build a kitchen island / dining table combo that would open up the room and give me more counter space. In order to achieve this, the most cost-effective methods would include modifying a number of Ikea pieces – and the web is full of ideas for how I could do it. Pinterest, or even a quick Google search, will show you just how many people have their own ‘Ikea hacks’ (there’s even a website called ikeahackers.net!)

The appeal of Ikea, to me and to many others, is that so many of its products offer a blank canvas onto which we can project our selves. And yes, if we have no sense of what material things reflect that sense of self, or just haven’t gotten around to that epic diy hack yet, Ikea furniture also offers the attractive option of just being enough: stylish enough, cheap enough, practical enough to make it good enough – for now, or forever.

For me, it’s not that ‘home’ is too uncertain a notion – it’s that we’ve got better things to do aside from finding perfect, unique, expressive decor for each home we live in.

And anyway, that’s asking A LOT of the inanimate objects in our lives. Let’s give them (and ourselves) a break!

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